“We don’t have a place to live anymore, there is nothing left in our apartment building, literally nothing left.”
These were the words that FIU Ukrainian student Anastasiia Osadchuk heard her cousin tell her after their apartment was bombed by Russian missiles.
Osadchuk’s cousin and her two daughters, who are three and seven years old, had attempted to escape in a crowded vehicle to western Ukraine. The car had clear signs attached to it stating that children were aboard. Despite this, they were shot at by Russian soldiers. The bullets injured the driver and struck her cousin’s three-year-old daughter on the shoulder. Thanks to the seatbelt she was wearing, the bullet did not cause more serious harm.
“Now you need to explain to your three-year-old kid why she was shot at. And then you need to explain to her seven-year-old sister what’s going on and why they’re moving from the city and why they see burned tanks and burned military cars and dead bodies everywhere,” explained Osadchuk.
Prior to the tragedy and chaos that ensued following Russia’s invasion, Osadchuk had spent most of her life in Kyiv, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in law. Following graduation, however, she realized that this was not her passion.
“I was more interested in studying psychology or that related field. It wasn’t a popular field back in Ukraine,” said Osadchuk.
This led her to move to the United States in 2018, where she attended The City College of New York and earned an associate’s degree in mental health and clinical psychology.
She then did several internships and figured that she could pursue a career in the medical field, to earn a pre-med degree.
Her plans were stilted when COVID-19 began spreading throughout the U.S. Due to being unable to travel back to Ukraine because of lockdowns and airport closures, she lost her student visa and had to find lawyers to help find universities willing to assist her in this process.
Osadchuk eventually found some lawyers in Florida who helped her search for universities in the state. That’s when she ran across FIU, which offered to help her with practically all her academic and student-related needs. She chose the Panthers and was finally able to pursue her passion; while simultaneously working to reinstate her student status. She opted to pursue a bachelor’s degree in behavioral neuroscience.
At FIU, Osadchuk was a straight-A student who was determined to succeed in her studies. But as things were looking up for her academically, there were mounting tensions back home as reports of an imminent Russian invasion continued for months.
Ukraine had grown accustomed to threats from Russia and Ukrainians largely believed that those reports were just another example of Russia trying to posture toward the rest of the world. It wasn’t until the invasion actually happened that these fears truly became a reality.
“Until February 24th, I was pretty much sure that it was just a way to scare off the world. [I was thinking] it wasn’t real. [That] it’s not going to happen.[That] It was just a bluff.”
During the first few weeks of the invasion, Osadchuk was constantly on the phone and talking to her family back home. Her parents and grandparents did not have a bunker or basement to hide in, so they resorted to barricading themselves away from doors and windows. This is where they slept during the first two weeks.
Food proved to be a huge problem as it grew harder to come by. Osadchuk’s grandparents also needed medication that had already been difficult to find prior to the war. Osadchuk had to make countless phone calls to people she knew and to volunteers for medication and food for her family. It took about four days for her grandparents to get their medication.
This took a considerable toll on her mental health.
“It’s impossible to study. You just begin and then you get distracted within a second by a phone call or a message or news or something. Especially during those times when I was on a phone like literally 24/7, maybe like having two hours of sleep, just to sleep to stay sane.”
Osadchuk believes that FIU has offered ways to improve her situation as it seeks to provide mental health and tuition assistance. She feels that the university was very understanding and supportive of what she was going through.
Osadchuk also praised her professors who have been exceptionally understanding of her situation and are willing to offer her various options to finish the semester.
She still plans on completing her degree and attending med school. As she finishes up her final undergraduate semester, Osadchuk wants to eventually go back to Ukraine and help organize hospitals and assist in rebuilding them.
“I want to go back [to Ukraine] and do everything that I can to just rebuild because I know that they will need it. So many hospitals were ruined. So many hospitals were bombed, so many doctors were killed,” Osadchuk says emphatically.
Osadchuk believes that Ukrainians are fighting not just for their own sovereignty, but for the sovereignty of the surrounding nations as well. With the war being covered so extensively, she feels like it is finally shedding light on the destruction that Russia has committed toward other Baltic countries.
“We don’t want any other country going through whatever we’re going through right now,” she said. “And unfortunately, whoever Russia invaded before went through the same. We have the same case in Georgia, the same case in Syria, and the same case in Afghanistan. The only difference right now is that we have Internet, and everything is open. And Ukraine keeps that position that everyone is welcome if they want to see with their own eyes and tell the world, what’s really going on.”
“I feel like that’s why we need the support from the world,” she said. “And we need support from the community, from Europe, from the U.S., and from any other country. Just to make sure that it’s never going to happen again.”